Chasing Contentment

Not long after completing last week’s blog, I purchased Chris Tomlin’s album Holy Roar,  to entertain me while driving to visit my parents. It wasn’t long before a new song was ringing in my head: Satisfied. It was another reminder that I have all I need in Jesus. Later on in the weekend, I began working on my personal budget for next year. I love a good spreadsheet, and the last few years I have set one up to help me determine how much I am able to give, save, and spend. I continue to be astounded by God’s faithfulness and provision for me. Yet, as I work to manage my money well, it is often the case that the more I have the more I want.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

1 Timothy 6:6-9

Having spent the last week considering contentment in my personal life, I found myself in 1 Timothy 6 in my Bible reading on Monday morning. Verse 6 states, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment. . .” There are no coincidences in life, just a God who likes to make sure that we don’t miss the lesson He is trying to teach us. The chapter caught my attention, and I spent the week examining it. What better mentor could I have in my life than the Apostle Paul? And what better time to read his admonitions about wealth and contentment than when I am outlining how I will steward my money in the year to come?

I have written before that what we seek can lead us astray. This has become my philosophy of following Christ as a single woman: I must seek God, not a husband. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. . .” He was teaching that we should not worry about our physical needs. This lines up with what Paul wrote to Timothy in the passage I am looking at. It was 1 Corinthians 7 that helped to apply this same principle to single life because Paul states over and over regarding different life situations, including marriage, “Do not seek. . .” It is seeking that often gets us into trouble.

First Timothy 6:9 addresses seeking to be wealthy. In verse 10, an often misquoted admonition, Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Craving combines the ideas of loving and seeking and gives us a picture of intense temptation. It isn’t the money itself, it is the state of the heart that will “plunge people into. . .destruction.”

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

1 Timothy 6:11

As I read 1 Timothy 6, I am aware that it was written to Timothy, who was not rich, whereas I am one of those that Paul referred to as “the rich in this present age.” I probably sound like a broken record on this topic, but it is one I am passionate about. Middle-class Americans, such as myself, are in the top 1% of the world’s wealth. I am determined not to forget this. All of our wealth breeds the desire for more. It is difficult to combat the desires and temptations that our wealth brings if we are convinced that we aren’t actually rich.

I love what Paul tells Timothy with regard to the desire for wealth. He doesn’t simply say “Don’t seek riches.” He tells him to “flee these things.” Flee, like Joseph running away from Potiphar’s wife and leaving his cloak behind! Don’t stop to consider or entertain the temptation, just turn around and run. Then Paul instructs what to run toward: “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” The word pursue gives us a picture of chasing something down. It is active, not passive. We are running away from the desires for worldly wealth, while “straining forward” to righteousness and godliness. We can’t just ramble through life expecting to avoid the snares of sin. In the next verse, Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith.” If we aren’t pursuing godliness and fighting the good fight, we may be wandering away from the faith, deceiving ourselves into thinking we are still on the right path.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19

We don’t know what treasure in heaven will look like, but faith is knowing that what we cannot see will far surpass anything we can obtain here on earth. We understand from Scripture that we are to be good stewards, prudently managing what God has blessed us with. This can make it easy to get caught up in building a financial nest egg, when our best foundation for the future is being “rich in good works.” I fear that my good works are at the poverty level. Thank God I am saved by grace! Still, I need to pray that He will work in my heart and show me how to grow in this area. I want my hopes to be set on God. I long to “take hold of that which is truly life.”

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